"Wicked Underground" (Spitfire Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

George Lynch has always been one of my favorite guitarists. I've always anticipated his newest work. After the somewhat disappointing, although very interesting, "Smoke This," via Lynch Mob, it was hard to tell what George Lynch was going to do next. 

It turns out that Lynch kept himself very busy on a variety of projects. The one project that was most interesting, and the first one to see the light of day, was his work with fellow Dokken alumnus Jeff Pilson. Lynch and Pilson teamed up in a project called, simply enough, Lynch/Pilson and "Wicked Underground" is the product of their collaboration.

"Wicked Underground" features twelve tracks of hard rock infused with a modern touch. The modern touches include use of electronic drums and programming however prevalent it might be it doesn't dominate the proceedings (all you guitar purists can quit complaining) the modern touches are deft accents to the veteran collaboration.

Well, I must say it's nice to hear George Lynch getting in touch with his bad self - the classic Lynch sound is back. It's not quite the guitar hero sound of the mid-'80s through early-'90s, but it'll suffice. While Lynch's signature sound has morphed over the last two decades, it hasn't gone so far to not recall the heyday of Dokken.

Two of the first three tracks, "A Breath And A Scream" and "Beast In The Box," are heavy groove rockers which gives this CD a good, swift kick in the ass. "When You Bleed" displays a very modern melodic sound yet having a bit of the heavy and melodic yin-yang vibe that Saigon Kick was so famous for. "Vaccine" brings hard rock back to the forefront with a little defiance thrown in for good measure.

"The Evil That You Are" comes closest to sounding like something that Lynch Mob could have done with its steady groove and slippery lead guitar. By the time Pilson's electronically altered voice meshes with a classic Lynch groove on "Goodbye Utopia" you know you're listening to something that took time to create, but was inspired and spontaneous as well. The mellow "Inner View" wouldn't sound too out of place on a Porcupine Tree album. And no Lynch related album could be complete without an instrumental: "Chromaniac" fulfills this obligation with ease. Filled with aggressive riffing and inventive soloing "Chromaniac" is a treat for the ears.

I must say that as interested as I was in George Lynch's non-Dokken projects I didn't find much time to hear Jeff Pilson's non-Dokken projects. Now, I was familiar Pilson's lead vocals as he was the primary vocalist on "Here I Stand" from Dokken's "Shadowlife" disc and "Just Got Lucky" from Dokken's "One Night Live" album. But it is another thing altogether to hear someone sing as a lead vocalist for a full album's worth of songs.

As a full-time vocalist, Pilson sounds like a mix of Jack Blades and Doug Pinnick. I know that sounds weird, but it isn't so weird when you hear it. The way Pilson's clean, melodic vocals shine on "Wicked Underground" he could teach a few things to some of the younger kids fronting musical act these days. Actually, I'm noticing a bit of Matt Kramer/Jason Bieler style as well. And I think that has to do with the fact that Pilson might be balancing his efforts between Lynch's darker moods and his own lighter touch. Maybe I'm just projected all of those things onto what I'm hearing - and that's not hard to believe because Lynch has recorded with an inordinate number of vocalists over the years and rarely has recorded albums with the same vocalist for consecutive albums in his non-Dokken related work.

I've gone on and on about Lynch and Pilson, but there's someone else that deserves at least a brief mention. Drummer Michael "Fro" Frowein joined the Lynch/Pilson outfit and his drumming is solid throughout - just what the Lynch/Pilson reunion needed.

The bottom line is that "Wicked Underground" has 12 top-notch hard rock songs. While no one single tracks is a jaw-dropper, there are no slouches herein either. The song-writing chemistry between George Lynch and Jeff Pilson is as strong as ever - let's hope they have more opportunities to create music in the future.

"Wicked Underground" was produced by Jeff Pilson and George Lynch.

Lynch/Pilson is George Lynch on guitars, Jeff Pilson on bass and vocals, and Michael "Fro" Frowein on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Sep 2021 13:34:12 -0400.